Back to the family vacations.
There wasn’t a Stuckeys where we didn’t eat Pecan Log Rolls, and there probably wasn’t a stretch of highway where we didn’t pull over so I could puke. This was pretty much how it went. They would drive, I would puke. Once when we were home in Connecticut, getting ready for dinner, the 6:00 news out of NYC announced a new way to combat car sickness. This stupid idea resulted in me having to sit in the front seat, between my mom and dad, for the 1000 miles from Connecticut to Disney World. It worked to cut down the puking, but to this day, I cannot believe we used to pack like sardines and sit in a car for two or three days.
The fun was definitely in the journey. You never really knew what you were going to get with my father. For financial reasons we didn’t understand until much later in life, Dad was always scheming how to save money on vacations. (The stock market, where all his spare cash resided, was dicey back then.) Sometimes it was a white lie like, “Tell them you’re 11, not 12, so you can eat off the kids menu.” “Sometimes it was downright humorous, like when we would stay at South of the Border and they would dispatch a bike messenger as your live-GPS to lead you to your room. My dad didn’t want to tip this guy, so he would inevitably roar the wood paneled station wagon in the opposite direction, and try to defy the odds to arrive first because we had the faster vehicle. Pedal to the metal through the legs of the giant Pedro statue you can see from 95, we would screech into our parking spot and quickly unload the car before the guy on the bike could find us. I remember one guy was huffing and puffing and sweating when he finally showed up at our room, and my dad waved him off as if to say, “You suck. You’re not getting a tip.” But, Dad’s frugality was sometimes so outrageous that even as a kid you had to wonder if someone would eventually come to take us away to our new family.
Motels mostly had external doors to each individual room. At least the ones we stayed in did. On a very freezing night one February, my father proudly clogged a toilet at a Days Inn. Neither a plunger nor plumber on site, we were forced to switch rooms, in our pajamas. When we were all settled in, Dad clogged that toilet too. I thought my mother would beat the rest of the shit out of him when she had to bundle all three of us up so we could switch rooms again.
Once my brothers were teenagers, it became really difficult for the five of us to share one hotel room. My older brother (I guess he’ll have to be SpongeBob) was always relegated to the cot because when he slept, he thrashed. No one could share a bed with him. I was known as the “wedge” because when I was sleeping, I would snuggle up to whoever I was in bed with and glom off their warmth. My mother and Squidward both reported that I wedged them so successfully they were forced to surrender, get out of bed and walk to the other side to resume sleeping. Apparently it didn’t take me long to scoot back. I never woke up during these events by the way. Not once.
When Dad finally agreed to rent two motel rooms, the entire game changed. Armed with a second phone and no one to watch us, we started crank calling our parent’s room. When we got bored with that, we started crank calling the front desk. Except they had caller ID and called back. Thinking it was SpongeBob, messing with me from our parent’s phone, I had a few choice words for “him.” After I proudly hung up, SpongeBob emerged from the bathroom. Thereby began the first of many many many times my father would scream, “CUT IT OUT OR THEY’LL THROW US OUT OF HERE!”